Wednesday, October 7, 2009

You should be thanking them!

And in the Channel Nine news this morning: Channel Nine show Hey Hey It's Saturday offends with a racist sketch on eternal Aussie favourite, Red Faces.

Cut to extended clip of five podgy white guys in afro wigs in blackface dancing and miming to a Jackson Five song. Stern commentary by our morning news reader informing us that these men had painted their faces black. More blackface dancing. They're mostly in sync.
Enter another white man, dressed as Michael Jackson circa HIStory, with his face painted white. (get it?!) More stern commentary pointing out that the newest member of the Jackson Six has his face painted white.
Cut to Red Faces celebrity judge (white) American, Harry Connick Jr, looking dumbfounded and drawing a shaky zero on his scorecard.
'If you had done that in the US,' pronounces the singer 'It'd be "Hey Hey Show's Over" - off the air.'
Cut to chubby little Daryl formally apologising to Connick Jr for offending him (no one else, just him), in that semi-fake TV apology tone where light-entertainment types have to eat humble pie and pull it off with all the sincerity of a group email.
Connick Jr says that he wouldn't have come on the show if he knew that Grown Up Golliwogs were going to be part of the deal.

Guess he underestimated the moronic desperation of insulated aging white guys ...
The man who played Michael Jackson now reckons that he wasn't being racist, because he's a) Indian (and of course no Indians are capable of racism because they get racismed themselves!), b) a doctor (and doctors are immune to racist behaviour, just like parking tickets) and c) don't forget, he was just trying to be funny! (Oh I get it ...)
When asked if he would perform the skit in the US? "Absolutely not."
Because racism is only okay when its subjects can't lynch you. And because no Australian Aboriginals (or anyone else who thinks that they're "black") should be offended because they should know that they were being Americans.
Not Australians - Americans. See? It's different.
No Aboriginals have the right to be offended and no way do they get an apology.
Only the white American guy gets an apology.
And noneof those black Americans get an apology either, because they didn't see it and didn't complain at the time.
And anyway, what has a bunch of wealthy doctors from "different racial backgrounds" painted in black face got to do with a couple of centuries of racism that's been over for decades?

And remember: they were just trying to be funny!


  1. Well put, Franzy.

    That was the ONLY segment I saw last night (I'll always be a Spicks and Specks and 'United States of Tara' ABC girl) and I was horrified.

    How could anyone - even a Channel staffer who might have done Sam Newman's make up a few times recently - NOT think that this was crass, offensive and stupid?

  2. Thanks, Kath.
    Actually, skipping over to The Age as I do in my merry middle-class white-guy way, Marieke Hardy or one of the feedback posters makes a good point that, even despite the still mind-boggling insistence on ignorance of the significance of blackface as a racist symbol, no one working in the media today could possibly get away with saying "We thought it would be okay what's the big deal".

    A burning cross
    The Australian flag draped across the sunburnt shoulders of 20 young men walking down Cronulla Beach drinking long necks of VB

    Yes, racism is so ingrained in this country that people still exist in their millions who would deny the significance of these symbols, but whoever gave the go ahead in TV-Land imagining that it would be fine is seriously deluded.

  3. I've never understood racism. We're all people.

  4. River - I think the problem occurs when people forget just that.

  5. I don't disagree with you Franzy...

    But Dave Chappelle can dress as a white man for his skit show..?

  6. I reckon Chappelle gets away with it because there isn't a couple of centuries of black over white racism symbolised by it.

    However, it is an interesting point to consider: obviously Chappelle's whiteface is an inverse reference to the blackface performers. The performers weren't just offensive because they painted their faces black, but because they were always playing buffoons and nasty stereotypes of blacks as idiots and criminals, which stuck with the majority of the population and told black people that they were indeed idiots and criminals. No one was blackfacing and acting as policemen or college professors. It's just as the swastika isn't necessarily offensive viewed alone, just being a line drawing and all, the history that surrounds it prevents people from using it and claiming that it's okay.
    When Dave Chappelle powders his face and behaves like a lame white guy, is he in some small way saying that dressing up as other races for entertainment is okay?
    It may also be significant here to note that he never puts whiteface on to play, for example, a redneck hick - always someone in a position of power like a newsreader or someone in a suit.

    Then there's the skit where he's the only black Klu Klux Klansman who doesn't realise he's black because he was born blind ...

  7. True about Chappelle playing a guy in a suit - so funny.

    I can name a few movies that haven't had a bad/evil black guy in them. i.e. Lethal Weapon, Con Air, Die Hard.

    I understand the years and years of racism. Racism is not entirely towards black people. Chinese people in looney tunes cartoons are used - bugs bunny is a culprit, hey I laughed at it when I was a kid.

    You still do see a lot of racism around. But what is the difference between stereotypical appearances and racism? I.e. A certain Asian acquantance of mine admits he's a terrible driver - but uses the Asian background as an excuse - yes stereotypical and slightly funny when he admits it, but racist when I agreed with him that a lot of Asian people do some interesting things on the roads..?

    Where do you draw the line? That's my biggest problem. Where do we draw the line Franzy? Statistics put stereotypical images out there, these then lead to racism; but was it racism that helped the statistics get there..?

  8. It's true that black people are no longer the bad guys in movies. In fact - you could view this as a source of complaint! (or the subject of a PhD...)

    But as far as where to draw the line? I don't think we should be drawing lines, because that actually removes the need to take responsibility for our own actions and thoughts. If someone else draws the line about acceptability, then it stops people from having to consider why something may or may not be offensive and lack of understanding is where racism starts.
    Eg. you understand that it's offensive for you go around saying that Asians are bad drivers and you understand why it's okay for your friend to say it (in context, and not for everyone, who may not appreciate it, etc).
    But if someone external said "Only Asian people can make Asian people driving gags" then every Asian person who takes offense at bad driving comments will get shouted down for taking offense because, you know, those comments were only trying to be funny.
    And here we are, back at Hey Hey It's Blackface Night's excuse for causing offense.
    Basically, they didn't have to think about it because somewhere at some other time, it was okay and therefore okay forever.
    Especially if you don't think about it.

  9. I think it was in bad taste due to the Michael Jackson saga with his recent death, or is

    I didn't actually see the redfaces show, but I don't know if they actually said anything out of the obvious observations, did they..? Was there anything malicious?

  10. Just wait until Harry Connick Jr finds out about "Zwarte Piet" in Holland...

    Surely there is room for jokes and a bit of fun (not that the Hey Hey skit was funny) somewhere too? I'm not quite sure I get it all. I was at a fancy dress party a while back, and a friend dressed as Mr T - he looked awesome, and I didn't even consider that painting himself black is racist, he was just accurately portraying Mr T. I'm not black, and I realise the history of blackface ... but if he dressed up as Bruce Lee instead and used makeup that gave the impression of slanty eyes I don't think I'd be offended as long as he wasn't playing a negative asian stereotype.

    There's the Dave Chappelle thing... and I went and saw one of my favourite bands, NOFX, a couple of weeks ago. They are a 4 piece from California made up of a white guy, two jews, and a mexican. One of their albums is called White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean (it was going to be called "...Two Kikes..., but one of the Jews' grandmother protested). They spent about 5 minutes of the show making Mexican and Jew jokes to eachother and, instead of an encore, danced around to "Everyone's a little bit racist" from the Avenue Q musical ( I loved it when they said that Indonesians are like Australia's version of Mexicans. I don't doubt that they're anti-racist and everyone had a good laugh at the whole show.
    I know I make fun of myself being asian, and laugh at asian jokes not told by asians when its done in the right spirit...

    Hollywood movies/TV shows where theres a token nerdy and/or martial arts expert asian or token stereotypical hot asian chick as a love interest to the white guy (never the other way around)? Or a non-asian portraying an asian in a non-offensive manner? Replace asian with whatever race and whatever negative stereotype. I know which one I have a problem with.

  11. You've hit the nail on the head.
    I think it's all fine when it's done in the right spirit too. But that's becoming a bit more complicated.
    I reckon portraying another race, especially one that's experienced discrimination (so that's pretty much everyone except for us white guys), the rule of thumb seems to be: no insulting.
    Mr T is a positive portrayal.
    Bruce Lee is positive.
    Mickey Rooney the Chinese landlord in Breakfast at Tiffany's is negative.
    Someone playing Bruce Lee beating up school children and playing it for laughs is negative.

    Dave Chappelle playing the dorky white newsreader is funny because he's also making a point about race relations, blackface/whiteface, the cultural cache of black culture, etc etc
    DC could probably even do a whiteface poor American redneck type.
    However, if say, Jim Carrey put on blackface as a poor black American and played it as a fool or something negative - that's essentially just making fun of black people for being foolish (a very real stereotype which does still exist in the minds of many).

    More to say on this - but I might leave it there ... for now.
    Say if


An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32